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The Sacred Name

May 08, 2010

In studying the Third Commandment, I am aware of a small but significant minority of people who believe that it is imperative to use the Sacred Name exclusively. In their view, the terms Lord, God, Christ, or Jesus are blasphemous, and those who use them are not true believers.

In order to maintain that position, of course, they find that they must reconstruct the New Testament, replacing not only the English translation but also the Greek text itself with whatever name or title they deem appropriate. (In other words, their position is that there no longer exists an inspired New Testament text, so they are required to reconstruct it for themselves by guessing what the apostles wrote originally.)

To such people, the Third Commandment focuses primarily on the name itself, rather than in its usage in a court of law in swearing to tell the whole truth. "You shall not take the name of Yahweh your Elohim in vain." Most of their time is spent in convincing people of the exact pronunciation of the name Yahweh and the title Elohim. If one does not pronounce it correctly, then Yahweh is greatly displeased.

Within such groups are many smaller groups, each claiming to have the correct name and/or pronunciation, such as Yahveh, Yahvah, Yehovah, Yehowah, and Yehuwah. No doubt at least one group has it right, but if this is what is required for salvation, only the tiniest number of people will ever be saved.

It is usually argued that "Baal" (the Canaanite deity) means Lord, and that therefore to refer to Yahweh by this title is to worship Baal without realizing it. Technically, however, "baal" means owner. An owner is lord and master of that which he owns. The Sacred Name Bible has chosen to use the term "master" whenever the Scriptures use "Lord" in reference to Yahweh. I do not know why Lord is blasphemous but Master and Owner are both acceptable. One could use any of these words to translate baal into English.

They also speak against the term Adon and Adonai, on the grounds that Adonis was a Greek god, the lover of Aphrodite, as the Wikipedia tells us:

Adonis was certainly based in large part on Tammuz (deity). His name is Semitic, a variation on the word "Adon" meaning "Lord" that was also used, as The name of God in Judaism to refer to "Yahweh" in the Old Testament. When the Hebrews first arrived in Canaan, they were opposed by the king of the Jebusite, Adonizedek, whose name means "lord of Zedek" (Justice).


Adonai is often used in the Old Testament in reference to Yahweh, as the quote above tells us. Psalm 110:1 reads,

"Yahweh said unto my Adonai, Sit thou at My right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool."

This is interpreted by Peter in his Pentecostal sermon in Acts 2:34-36,

(34) For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says, "The Lord said to my Lord, sit at My right hand (35) until I make thine enemies a footstool for thy feet." (36) Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ--this Jesus whom you crucified.

In other words, when David spoke of Adonai in Psalm 110:1, it prophesied of Jesus, or Iesous (in Greek). David was not blaspheming Jesus, even though the Greek equivalent of Adonai was Adonis, one of the pagan gods.

In fact, Ezekiel's favorite term is Adonai Yahweh, which most modern translations render as "The Lord God." (See Ez. 2:4; 3:11, 27; 5:5, 7, etc.) The Sacred Name Bible renders it "Master Yahweh," as if Adonai had suddenly acquired a new meaning. The literature castigates Adonai as meaning Lord, but when used in Scripture they translate it Master. Most are unaware of this inconsistency. I think that this translation trick was designed to hide the fact that Adonai (and Baal as well) can be translated as either Lord or Master. Neither term is blasphemous.

The old Jewish rabbis developed such a high respect for the Sacred Name that it began to take on magical proportions. In time they ceased to utter the Name and substituted other titles in its place. If you read Dr. Bullinger's Appendix 32 to his Companion Bible, he says that the Jewish scholars (Sopherim) altered the Sacred Name 134 times in the Old Testament text from Yahweh to Adonai. Of course, 134 alterations out of 6519 is only a tiny portion of all the instances where Yahweh is used. But it was enough to cause the modern backlash.

By the time of Christ, it was common to speak of Adonai and avoid the use of the name Yahweh. The Greek translation of the Old Testament, known as the Septuagint, perpetuated this by rendering both Yahweh and Adonai by the Greek equivalent, Kurios, "Lord." And so the Greek-speaking Jews used Kurios, whereas the Palestinian Jews used Adonai.

The New Testament writers, then continued the use of this commonly-accepted term in order to communicate with the language groups they were teaching. But the modern Sacred Name movement has taken upon itself the mission of correcting everyone, even to the point of altering the text of the New Testament. They claim that the NT was originally written in Hebrew or Aramaic, and so they usually reject the idea of an inspired Greek text.

While it is probably true that at least Matthew was originally written in Hebrew, it is equally true that it was translated into Greek either by himself or by Barnabas. Luke was a Greek doctor, and he wrote both the gospel and the book of Acts. Paul certainly wrote his letters in Greek in order to communicate with his main audience outside of Palestine.

So there is no justification for anyone today to alter Paul's words to suit their own view of what Paul ought to have written.

In chapters 23 and 24 of my first volume on Church History, I showed how the canon of the New Testament, compiled during the lifetime of the apostles themselves. Most of it was completed by Peter and Paul in the mid-60's A.D., and John finished the final touches in the late first century. The main scribe was Barnabas, who signs his name and insignia more than once on the Codex Washingtonensis, while retaining the original signature of the apostles themselves. This is all done in Greek with Hebrew-Aramaic notations and markings in the margins.

The fact is that we have a Greek text of the New Testament today, translated mainly by Barnabas, the priestly Scribe, that was authenticated by the apostles themselves. This translation finds no difficulty in using the Greek term Kurios.

In my view it would be blasphemous to call any false god "Lord," for that would indicate my acceptance of such a god as my owner, master, or lord.

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Dr. Stephen Jones

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